(AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic)
A little more than a week ago, Vlade Divac held a massive fundraiser to benefit refugees in Serbia and Africa. All kinds of NBA dignitaries were on hand, and one of them, new Celtic Scot Pollard (that's him in the striped black shirt), agreed to write a blog entry for TrueHoop about what really happened last week in Serbia.
Hey Kids! First of all, let me mention I hate the word blog. Here's my journal of what happened in Serbia last week, September 19th-23rd.
I landed in Belgrade in the late afternoon, and went to the hotel and got a nap. I had dinner at eight, then met with Vlade and several celebrities including Bill Bertka, Glen Rice, Toni Kukoc, Chris Webber, Gregg Popovich and many others, plus some legends of the former Yugoslavia. (I will not insult by trying to spell their names.)
After dinner, some of us wanted to go to a club, to see how Serbs do it.
They do it well.
Rumor has it some guys jumped behind the bar and lost their shirts ... I'm not at liberty to discuss who. (We agreed we wouldn't say it was me and Chris.)
Next day, we had a press conference to explain why we were there. For me, it was just for Vlade. He is such a great person, I wanted to do anything I could to help him. I don't know if I helped at all, but I did smile pretty!
Friday night was the formal affair at the royals' house. I looked really good in my tux. I asked some people to come over and see how good I looked, but they just yelled over, "you look good, Ron Burgundy." The power was out at the Prince's house, but we had a good time anyway, so that when the power came back on, we hadn't missed a step.
After meeting and dining with more important people than I can remember (let's just say I felt like Forrest Gump meeting the president & AGAIN) we went to another club. This one was on the water, on a permanently docked pontoon. Live music, which ended up literally at our table, was great! All classical Serbian songs, and EVERYONE knew them, excepting us foreigners, o' course.
The next day my appearance was around noon in downtown Belgrade. I mostly just took pictures and rebounded and joked around with everybody.
It's humbling going to a country that has recently had a real war and is so poor, and yet I can speak my native tongue to the locals and they can understand and respond in English.
Anyway, this is the day when I realized why Serbia is such a force in basketball. Everyone in Serbia is seven feet tall! Boys, girls, aunts, uncles, it's unbelievable! I felt like I was at a family reunion!
After a quick afternoon nap, there was a get together in Belgrade.
I've been in a lot of full arenas, football and basketball, I've seen large crowds on TV, but I've never seen this many people together in once place, ever. And it was on national television ... so pretty much all of Serbia was watching this.
When I got on stage, I think I took more pictures than the people taking pictures of me! Chris and I brought a little USA to the stage when we split the crowd in half and had one side chant VLADE, and the other, DIVAC! My side won. Then Chris explained that he felt like the first black Serb. The crowd went nuts!!! I suggested his name should be Christic Webberevic.
Ho hum, another nightclub visit after that (pattern?) ... but not before we went to a local restaurant.
Let me tell all the meat eaters out there, if you like meat like I do, Serbia is heaven. Meat, bread, potatoes. Simple stuff, but done SO well.
At this club, though, I was working. They had me be a celebrity bartender. How this helped refugees in Serbia I have no idea, but it was fun pouring shots for people, and yelling really loud. I like to yell really loud.
After working so hard at the club, I was hungry, so went to a hamburger stand.
I would fly back to Serbia to get another one of these hamburgers. It defies logic and description, so I'm not gonna try.
Sunday morning, we had to slum it on the former president Tito's train. Wow, long ride, but pretty cool to be on a train that featured music, a dining car, and lounge areas. The Pollards even shared a room with a bed.
Someone named Glen Rice took Tito's suite, which I didn't get to see 'cause his selfish butt went in and locked the door and went to sleep. (Just kidding, Gmoney, but damn, could I at least get a look?)
We got to Vlade's hometown and they were all there waiting for us. ALL OF THEM! About 30 thousand people decided that work would not be happening that day, closed shop, and came to see us.
One of the greatest moments of my life happened there. When we got off the bus near a monastery, which dates back to the 12th century, the bells started to ring to welcome us. They began again to usher us back towards the train, too. I just got goose bumps thinking about it. Next time you are in an 800-year-old church, if your jaw doesn't hit the floor, let me know ...
In conclusion, I'm sure that I took more than I gave, but if I helped one person who has had a much more difficult life than me, than it was worth the trip. Gotta go, I need to pack to go to Rome for training camp. Bad news: I have to fly overseas for the second time in three days. Good news: not over my jet lag yet!!